All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Introducing a New Kitten to an Old Cat...


Dear Marie,
We have a wonderful 7-year-old tabby. She is very mellow and tolerant. Several months ago we baby-sat a kitten and our cat hissed and scratched the kitten. This was extremely unusual for our cat. We will be taking in a kitten permanently in a few weeks. Do you have any suggestions for helping her adjust to a new cat? Thank you,
Arielle

Dear Arielle,
Introducing a new cat or kitten to a cat who has been queen of the house for many years will most likely be an exercise in patience. That’s not to say it can’t be done because every cat will eventually accept a newcomer. But I must warn you that there will be some very trying moments in the process as the two cats adjust to each other; and you should be prepared for some pretty nasty snarling, growling and chasing.

The key to making the introduction as smooth as possible is time. Do not dump the kitten right in front of your cat or you are asking for trouble. Instead, designate one room of your house as the kitten’s temporary quarters. Prepare it before the kitten arrives. Make sure you have a food dish, water bowl, litter box, a bed, and various toys, including a scratching post inside the room. Keep this room off-limits to your adult cat for several days prior to bringing home the kitten.

There are two important reasons for doing this. First, it will remove the “territory” factor from the equation. Your adult cat will realize that this room is not part of her domain. In fact, when you choose a room for your kitten, pick one that your cat rarely spends time in, rather than one she enjoys. Second, by having a room with a litter box, food, and playthings, your new kitten will learn good habits because she will not have to search for a place to go to the bathroom, nor will she have to look far for appropriate things to scratch and play with. Having food, water, and a bed available will also make her feel secure and comfortable.

A few days before your kitten arrives, visit with her. Most animal shelters have visiting rooms or get acquainted areas where you can do this. Make sure that the kitten has had a vet check and has been cleared for adoption because you don’t want to bring home any germs to your healthy cat. Take a dry, terry-cloth hand towel with you and rub it on your kitten’s face. The kitten will enjoy this because it will feel good. Keep this up for several minutes to ensure the towel absorbs the scent of the kitty.

After visiting, go back home and spend time with your adult cat. She will immediately notice the smell of the “stranger” and begin sniffing you suspiciously. Ignore this behavior and begin petting her. In fact, pet her with the same towel that you used on the kitten. Repeat this process several times a day during the time leading up to adoption. This will allow your cat to associate love and attention with the scent of the kitten and that is a very good thing.

When you do finally bring your new charge into the household, have her in a cat carrier and take her directly to her room. Put her in and spend only enough time with her to get her acquainted with her new surroundings. As soon as she is comfortable, leave the room and spend time with your adult cat who will no doubt be standing right at the door, sniffing.

Do not let the new kitten have free run of the house at any time during the first week. Visit her often, but never to the point of creating jealousy in your adult cat. After a day, open the door of the room just a crack. Use a brick on both sides of the door to ensure it cannot be closed or opened further. This will allow both cats to sniff each other. Expect some hissing.

Monitor the cats’ behavior—as the hissing begins to diminish, but no sooner than one week, you may attempt to open the door completely. It is imperative that you never give the new kitten attention while your adult cat is watching. Instead, lavish attention on her. There will be plenty of time later for spoiling the new kitten.

Continue feeding both cats separately. Food is something that cats will fight over. Don’t give them any reason to wage war. In the future, you will be able to feed them together, but wait to do that until the cats are comfortable with each other.

Some cats adjust to newcomers within a few weeks, while others take months. Some cats become very bonded to each other, while others decide to just tolerate the existence of the “intruder.” The important thing is that they do eventually work out their differences and learn to get along.

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